A proposed low to middle income housing complex in Stevensville drew several complaints from neighboring property owners at a public hearing on the project last week. The 16-unit multi-family project called Burnt Fork Place Apartments is being developed by the Missoula Human Resource Council as a low income tax credit project.
The proposed project is located near the Eastside Ace hardware store on the Eastside highway on the north side of town near the Winslett subdivision. In 2003, the previous owner of the property proposed a development called Nicole Court. That proposal was not implemented and in 2005 the Human Resource Council purchased the property and planning for a new development was begun.
Jim Morton, Executive Director of the Human Resource Council, said that the housing authority is involved in developing low to middle income housing projects across the state and owns about 100 units in the Bitterroot Valley. He said the development under consideration was more of a middle income project. He said the units being proposed were not subsidized units. He said a couple with a combined income of $34,000 would pay $964 a month to rent a unit.
“We do have projects for low income people,” he said, “but in this case it is for middle income.
The project proposes building 16 units in two duplexes and three triplexes on the three-acre parcel of land.
Mayor Brandon Dewey noted that the public hearing was being held to gather public comment on the community’s housing needs, including public facilities, economic development and housing and the need for low income people to be served by the proposed development. He said it was not a question and answer situation, it was only for public comment on the proposal. He said the meeting was not to approve or disapprove the proposal. He said the proposal met the town’s codes and zoning regulations. He said under the current regulations the R-2 zoning would allow 16 units per acre to be built on the property. The proposal is to only build a total of 16 units on the whole three acres.
Bob Robinson, staff architect for the Human Resource Council, said that the latest site plan had been altered to mitigate the issues related to high ground water in the area. Buildings had been pulled back from high water areas on the property, he said, and crawl spaces were being built up and a shallow catch basin was planned to keep rainwater on the property.
Plans are to break ground in mid-July and construction is expected to last through June of 2021. No variance is being sought as the plans meet all codes and requirements. He said over two feet of fill would be brought in so that the ground could be built up so that no ground water would be displaced by the development.
About a dozen local residents disagreed with that assessment. Each one spoke mainly about the high groundwater in the area, some calling it a swamp. They recounted past experiences with other developments in the area that they claimed created high water problems for them on their property.
John Kellogg of Professional Consultants Incorporated said that the Human Resource Council was working closely with DEQ and DNRC to address the groundwater situation. He said the actions being taken will avoid displacing the existing groundwater on the property and it will also capture rainwater on the property so that it doesn’t run off onto neighboring lands.
Bill Perrin said that he served on the council when the project first came before the town and testified in its favor at a meeting in Helena.